Thursday, November 20, 2003

What happened to the IT Skills Shortage?

Today's news included an estimate that half a million IT jobs vanished last year. This put me in mind of a conversation with some friends a few years ago, when companies large and small were hiring programmers from overseas because they couldn't find enough skilled workers.

I remember arguing with one friend that post-Y2K and post-improved productivity, the skills shortage would vanish. Here's what I said to her in an e-mail:

Date: Tue, 11 Apr 2000 15:25:09 EDT
From: Rich Wiggins
Subject: ITAA says IT worker shortfall now at 850,000
In-Reply-To: Your message of Tue, 11 Apr 2000 12:23:30 -0400

>yes, but when the "webification" occurs, there will be some other new IT
>initiative to which e-commerce technologists can transfer their skills.
>That is the way of the IT world. We've been doing that (retraining and
>redeploying talent) since forever.
>-----Original Message-----

Well, as it happens Microsoft says they feel the pain, too:

But I stand by my claim. This IT stuff is gonna get easy, it's
gonna get integrated. The Web is going to be as easy as
running a fax machine, including Web-integrated databases.

So I challenge you, XXXX XXXXXX, to a bet. I bet that as
of April 11, 2005, there is no reported IT skills shortage.
I bet their may be a white collar talent shortage, but
that's for people who are literate, who have basic
management skills, or people who can manage technology.
But the shortage of programmers and programming project
leaders will be gone.

I bet you $100, or a share of XXXX stock as of that day,
whichever is worth more. :-)


Sadly I was off by a few years. Not only did the bubble burst and IT jobs vanish, but my friend, herself an employee of a high tech company, was laid off several months ago.